No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion
Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
• Aric Almirola, a Tampa, Fla., native will return to his home state this weekend to drive the No. 9 Budweiser Ford in Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the season finale for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams.
• On Friday, Almirola will be joined at the track by his paternal grandmother, Eneida Almirola, whose visit to Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the first time she’s ever been to a race track in her entire life. Abuela Eneida, a Cuban native, first came to the United States in 1966 with her husband, Rafael, and their two sons, Rafael Jr. (Almirola’s father) and Robert. Their family was granted access to fly from Cuba to America on the Freedom Flights that brought them into Miami. Once they landed they were given $100 to make a new life for themselves in the United States — $50 for being a married couple and $25 for each child. They eventually settled in Tampa, Fla., where Almirola’s Abuelo Ralph opened a TV repair business. Abuela Eneida will be joined at the track by both of her sons as well.
• Almirola will join fellow NASCAR drivers and media members in a Traxxas RC Boat race hosted by Kyle Busch in the infield lake at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday morning. Following a short drivers’ meeting, the participants will have some time to practice before competing in six-lap heat races to try to make the field for the 10-lap main event.
• For the third-consecutive week, Almirola will perform triple duty by competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Homestead Miami Speedway. On Friday he will run the No. 51 truck for Billy Ballew Motorsports, Saturday he will drive the No. 88 JR Motorsports entry and on Sunday he will race the No. 9 Budweiser Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports.
• The No. 9 Budweiser Ford team enters the last race of the year with three pole awards, seven top fives and nine top-10 finishes in the first 35 events of the season. In the past six years the team has scored one pole award, one top five and two top-10 finishes at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
• Almirola has raced in all three of NASCAR’s top series at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His first start at the 1.5-mile track came in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2006 and he finished 23rd. In 2007 he ended up 18th in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race and in 2008 he took the checkered flag in 35th position in the NACAR Sprint Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Almirola’s most recent event at the track was last year’s Truck Series race where he started 16th, led seven laps and finished 14th.
• After Sunday’s race, Almirola will turn his attention to a very important date. On Saturday, Dec. 11, just 20 days following the close of the 2010 NASCAR season, Almirola will tie the knot with fiancée Janice Goss in a ceremony attended by close friends and family in Huntersville, N.C. The two first met in 2005 when Almirola ran several NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races for Morgan Dollar Motorsports and Goss’ dad, Randy, served as crew chief for the team. They began dating shortly thereafter and were engaged to be married in November 2009.
• Follow along each weekend on Twitter for updates on how the No. 9 Budweiser Ford team is running. The @RPMotorsports account provides updates on the team throughout the race weekend and also features additional information about the Richard Petty Motorsports organization. Additionally, for updates on Almirola, follow @Aric_Almirola.
Almirola on his Abuela attending a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and his upcoming wedding:
How special is it for you to have your Abuela Eneida at the track on Friday for her first race? “It’s special for me to have Abuela Eneida at the track for her very first race, ever. The coolest thing for me is that it was nearly 44 years ago my grandparents gave up everything they had to have a better life in America. They landed in Miami on the Freedom Flights with my dad and uncle Robert and now she gets to witness a product of her sacrifice; ironically in Miami. I’m privileged to do something that I love for my job and it’s all because Abuela Eneida and my Abuelo Ralph made a sacrifice for a better life.”
Your wedding is just a few weeks away. How hands on have you been in the planning process for the big day, or have you let your fiancée Janice (Goss) handle most of the details? “I’ve honestly tried to stay out of the planning process. Obviously some of the major decisions I put my opinion in, but all the details I’ve let Janice handle. We are excited to have our close friends and family come in from out of town to celebrate our marriage with us.”
Homestead-Miami Speedway Track Facts
Track Length: 1.5 Miles
Race Length: 267 laps/400.5 miles
Grandstand Seating Capacity: 65,000
First Race: Nov. 14, 1999
Banking in the corners: 18-20 degrees (variable)
Banking on the straights: 4 degrees
Frontstretch: 1,760 feet
Backstretch: 1,760 feet
TV: ESPN, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN Radio, SIRIUS NASCAR Radio